183 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 24 August 1975


Portuguese Timor

RefO.JAJ401,1 O.JA14032

Tjan sought an urgent meeting with Ambassador and Dan this afternoon, 24 August. He apologised for the short notice but said that Benny Moerdani (and others) would be meeting with the President tonight. Moerdani had asked Tjan to speak urgently to us in the hope that they might have by tonight an indication of Australia's reaction to Governor Pires' reported appeal for international forces to intervene in Timor to restore peace and order. We informed Tjan that we had asked for guidance but doubted we would receive anything definitive before Monday. Ambassador subsequently told Moerdani this.

  1. Tjan said that two days ago Indonesia had instructed their Ambassador in Lisbon to ask the Portuguese Government whether Portugal would wish Indonesia to intervene in Portuguese Timor and restore law and order. They had received an interim reply from the Portuguese Foreign Minister which in effect said that while he was grateful for Indonesia's offer he was in no position to give an authoritative response. Tjan said that Indonesia was now anxiously awaiting Portugal's final reply (paragraph 4 of JA13933 refers).
  2. He said that communications between Jakarta and their Ambassador in Lisbon were difficult, and he wondered whether our Ambassador in Lisbon could contact the Indonesian Ambassador and stress the urgency of the matter. Given the political situation in Portugal however, Indonesia would not be surprised if no reply was received at all.
  3. He went on to say that President Soeharto would authorise Indonesian intervention if Portugal requested Indonesia to do so. Failing that Tjan believed the President would act if Mr Whitlam indicated that he (the Prime Minister) believed that intervention by Indonesia to restore law and order in Portuguese Timor would now be helpful, given the present circumstances. It could in fact prove the only way to stop the slaughter. 4
  4. It would be clearly understood, Tjan said, that Indonesia would intervene only to restore law and order and that the Indonesian presence would be withdrawn as soon as the wishes of the people of Portuguese Timor had been ascertained (through such means as a plebiscite).
  5. Tjan said that their present assessment was that there was now a real possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence by Fretilin. If this were followed by recognition by some countries, the situation for Indonesia would be very serious indeed. It was therefore essential to have urgently Mr Whitlam's views on Indonesian direct involvement.
  6. Given the mass of cables you are receiving on Timor the Department and the Prime Minister might look again at our O.JA1401 and our O.JA13895 especially paragraph 21. Of course, in enlisting options open to us in that cable (O.JA1389) we did not list a fourth possible option which the Indonesians have in fact now raised. This option is for support of [at] least of a private nature from the Prime Minister for Indonesian intervention to stop the killing, restore peace and order and establish conditions for the people of Portuguese Timor to determine their own future.
  7. We appreciate there would be considerable domestic difficulties in this course of action. We also need to give some thought to the fact that some of the President's advisers want to use Australia's support for Indonesian involvement as a means of getting the President to decide upon this course.

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, xii]